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Sunday, 19 May 2013

KB road, yet again.

A little feedback from the past week, starting with a morning trip to KB road this weekend. The morning was relatively productive, I even saw another black-and-white bulbul, but I have very little to show for. I did however manage to get some shots of the ruby-cheeked sunbird, which I consider to be my best so far. Here is the male:
Male Ruby-cheeked sunbird (Chalcoparia singalensis).
And again, now showing the origin of its name.
Male Ruby-cheeked sunbird (Chalcoparia singalensis).
At first I thought this pair was feeding, but soon realized that they were returning to the same branch because they were laying the foundation of their new home. Here is the female, carrying some nesting material.
Female Ruby-cheeked sunbird (Chalcoparia singalensis).
The only other bird picture I find worth showing is of this buff-rumped woodpecker that I found foraging in the trees. This small woodpecker is one of the more common woodpeckers seen. 
Buff-rumped woodpecker (Meiglyptes tristis).
When I drove home, I noticed a large group of silver leaf monkeys and watched them for a while from my car. The massive jumps they made from one tree to the next is really impressive. Here is one animal taking off.
Silver Langur (Trachypithecus cristatus).
Silver Langur (Trachypithecus cristatus).
Silver Langur (Trachypithecus cristatus).
Silver Langur (Trachypithecus cristatus).
The siliver langur, or silver(ed) leaf monkey is listed as near threatened by IUCN. Luckily they're still reasonably often encountered in Brunei. There is even one group in Panaga, which is very unique situation (see also an earlier post, my garden birds ii, August 2012).

As some of you may have discerned from previous posts, we also attempt to explore the fauna around Panaga during the evening hours. Last Thursday Kolbjorn, together with his two kids Hannah and Jonas, and myself went out for an evening drive on KB road.

This was the first time I drove down KB road during an evening shower. The low-hanging fog, that accompanies the rain while it evaporates on the still hot tarmac of the road, creates a very eerie atmosphere. With the amount of rain we quickly abandoned the idea of spotlighting and focused our attention mainly on the area in front of us that was illuminated by the car's headlights. And we soon found that we weren't the only ones: when I put on the breaks to avoid running over a little frog we were astonished to see a Buffy fish owl swooping down to pick it up, just two meters in front of us. What a sight! 
It quickly became apparent that the wet road becomes a preferred hunting ground for the Buffy fish-owls. We counted no less than 7 different birds - without the aid of any spotlighting! With their hunting accuracy any frog that crosses the road puts its life in serious danger.
Buffy fish-owl (Ketupa ketupu) in the rain.
On the way back it even got better when we spotted this Wagler's pit viper. This is one of the more common Bornean snakes. Adults get to about a meter in length, this youngster was only around 30 centimeters and still had stunning bright green colors. It is a true nocturnal species; they are very docile and sluggish during the day, often found motionless for hours on the same branch. Even though bites are rare, care should always be taken with these snakes, Wagler's pitviper is poisonous and its venom really packs a punch!
Juvenile Wagler's pitviper (Tropidolaemus wagleri).
Juvenile Wagler's pitviper (Tropidolaemus wagleri).
The snake pictures were taken without flash and I am very pleased with the results; all the credit goes to Hannah though, without her perfect support holding the torch we would have nothing to show for. Thanks Hannah!

Folkert, 19/05/2013.

Monday, 13 May 2013

KB road in spring

I had planned to spend some of the morning hours at KB road on my Friday off. As it happened it was pouring down when I got up and I needed very little persuasion to return my head back to my pillow. Luckily, the weather promised to be much better the next day and at Saturday 6 AM I turned onto KB road in a highly upbeat mood.

Some bushes next to the road were fruiting and there were plenty of bulbuls around, mostly black-headed, but I also saw a puff-backed bulbul which is an uncommon encounter at KB road. After a couple of minutes the star of the morning flew in: a male black-and-white bulbul.
Male black-and-white bulbul (Pycnonotus melanoleucus).
This first picture is really not very good. I was shooting against the light with a slightly fogged up lens. And not only that, I also still had my camera in a fixed setting from the previous night! Not very smart. It's hard to explain the anguish when failing to make the most of a perfect photo opportunity of a hard to get bird.

While waiting for the black-and-white bulbul to return, I heard a scarlet-rumped trogon singing and soon found the source.
Scarlet-rumped trogon (Harpactes duvaucelii).
I don't think I will ever tire of seeing a trogon, they really are stunning animals. There were also several black-winged flycatcher-shrikes around. This is one of the more common birds along KB road.
Black-winged flycatcher-shrike (Hemipus hirundinaceus).
Black-winged flycatcher-shrike (Hemipus hirundinaceus).
Two black magpies were making a lot of noise nearby. This is only the second time I have seen this species now on KB road.
Bornean black magpie (Platysmurus aterrimus).
This pygmy squirrel also showed quite well. These tiny squirrels do not measure more than 10 cm. I think this is the plain or least pygmy squirrel, and a from a little googling I just learned that this species is endemic to Borneo.
Least pygmy squirrel (Exilisciurus exilis).
After a while another black-and-white bulbul showed up, a female this time. This species really seems to have a cunning ability to make any photographing attempts difficult. In this one the head is superbly hidden behind a leave...
Female black-and-white bulbul (Pycnonotus melanoleucus).
The browner color suggest that this is a female. And here she is flying of again....
Female black-and-white bulbul (Pycnonotus melanoleucus).
The black-and-white bulbul is uncommon species. KB road seems to be a relatively good area for an encounter with this distinctive bulbul and I have seen them now on several occasions. This Saturday I was lucky to not only see a male and female bird, but also this juvenile.
Juvenile black-and-white bulbul (Pycnonotus melanoleucus).
 Finally the female showed up again and allowed some better shots.

And just in time as I really couldn't stay any longer; the jazz festival in Miri was waiting, which btw was very excellent!

Folkert, 13/05/2013.

Friday, 3 May 2013


Every so often we go on a little night drive around the area to look for owls, and any- and everything else active after dark. Buffy fish-owls are the commonest owl encountered. Most other nocturnal species seem to occur only in low numbers. There is however a good species diversity and there is always a chance to encounter something special.

When we went on a short night drive last Thursday we had two great finds. The first owl we picked up was an Oriental bay owl. After listening to the distinctive calls from two individuals for a good 20 minutes one of the owls finally showed itself.
Oriental bay-owl (Phodilus badius).
This is a tricky species to see and it was definitely a good feeling to finally get a visual of this beautiful little owl.

The evening had more in store! A kilometer or so down the road we picked up two reddish scops owls in duet across the road. And we soon located out this little fellow.
Reddish scops-owl (Otus rufescens).
Reddish scops-owl (Otus rufescens).
Another little owl that is rarely seen. While this species is more often heard than the oriental bay owl, I have only had one very frustrating little glimpse before last nights encounter. No Buffy fish-owls this evening, but its two smaller cousins more than compensated!

Folkert, 04/05/2013.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Labi road, April 20th

Sunday a week ago Kolbjorn and I went to Labi road to check out a locality that I hadn't been to in ages. Lady luck was not with us this morning; almost as soon we had parked the sky opened its floodgates and the downpour quickly forced us back in the car. Rather than waiting it out we decided to head back to the main road, with some idle optimism that conditions would be better there.

A big fruiting tree along to the main road provided a perfect shelter for seemingly all barbets in the area and I had good views of blue-eared, red-throated and red-crowned. As soon as the rain stopped though a group of glossy starlings flew in and almost immediately claimed exclusive rights to the fruits. Only a couple of very persistent blue-eared barbets stayed around. This is a very common species and their incessant calls can be heard almost anywhere. I have never gotten a clean shot though!
Blue-eared barbet (Megalaima australis).
We stayed while the sky cleared up, secretly hoping the more exotic species would return to the tree. They didn't. A couple of tree-sparrows offered some distraction as they were peeping through a fence next to my car. The first breeding records of this species in Borneo only date back to the early 1960's - now it's a common bird just about everywhere humans live and work.
Eurasian tree-sparrow (Passer montanis).
After 20 minutes we gave up and headed back to the first locality. The first bird we noticed was this dark-sided flycatcher. I was a little unsure about the ID, so thanks to Dave and Wong for helping out!
Dark-sided flycatcher (Muscicapa sibirica).
Same bird: dark-sided flycatcher (Muscicapa sibirica).
A chestnut-bellied malkoha also showed reasonably well while it was creeping through the trees. Labi seems a good area for this generally uncommon species.
Chestnut-bellied malkoha (Phaenicophaeus sumatranus).
We soon noticed this second flycatcher, another dark-sided. I find the ID of this bird more straight forward, especially since the diagnostic grey spots below the vent are a lot clearer.
Dark-sided flycatcher (Muscicapa sibirica).
By now it was getting late in the morning and although we heard and saw some interesting species, the activity was rapidly slowing down. Labi-road still had one good surprise on the way back. Just before turning onto the highway back to Panaga a very large bird flew overhead: a Lesser adjutant!
Lesser adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus).
In the past, this species was still seen on occasion in and around the Seria grasslands close to Panaga. The last record however dates far back to 2009 and sadly seems to be in line with the decline of this species. Due to primarily hunting pressure the Lesser adjutant is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN.

It's always nice to end a morning out with a good species; needless to say that I was very pleased to finally add this species to my Brunei list!

Folkert, 01/05/2013